Modern manufacturing and materials, particularly in blade steels and their heat treatment, have led to production knives that offer greater utility and performance, and better value, than ever before. When it comes to cutting tools, the modern outdoorsman has never had it so good.
The three examples shown here, which have proven worthy throughout a variety of camp chores and shooting sports activities, are: Cold Steel’s Recon Scout, a classic fixed-blade Bowie that was recently reintroduced in 01 tool steel; the Kershaw Piston, a full-size, spring-assisted folder with a flipper and dual thumb studs; and the Benchmade 531 Axis, a featherweight folder with dagger DNA and a utilitarian spear-point blade.
The Recon Scout’s 7½"-long 5/16"-thick blade is weighty enough to chop with yet trim enough that it packs and handles more like a large fighting knife—just right for splitting kindling or constructing a shelter. Its 5"-long Kray-Ex rubberized handle means that it is unlikely to inadvertently leave your hand while in motion, and the ovalized steel guard snaps into the polymer Secure-Ex sheath ($200).
The U.S.-made Piston is a 3½"-bladed folder with 5" scales of machined and textured G10 that do not require separate metal liners, allowing it to weigh a reasonable 4 ozs. Its 11⁄8" wide blade of Sanvik 14C28N and sweeping point make it a great utility knife for everything from spreading peanut butter to cutting cardboard target backers—perhaps not in that order ($115).
Finally, Benchmade’s 531, at only 2.1 ozs. and 4.1" overall (closed), offers a lot of utility while still being nearly compact enough to carry in a front pants pocket. The symmetrical design of its grooved G10 scales combines with a reversible tip-up pocket clip, the proprietary bilateral Axis lock and dual thumb studs to make it attractive to both right- and left-handers. The 531’s modified drop-point blade geometry makes it excellent for finer tasks ($155).